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Cold climate stray: to take in or not take in

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
We live on a street in a small Upstate NY city that may best be described as urban Appalachia.

There are feral cat colonies about two blocks away from us, one living under an auto repair shop, the other under a sprawling, ancient state prison.

Our section of the street is a bit more orderly -- a few middle class homeowners mixed in with the renters; lots of nice big backyards.

Throughout the neighborhood, including right around our house, the cat concentration is astounding.

Cats peer out of most of the windows, and multiple cats prowl the yards, some seemingly well cared for, others not. Several have gunky, runny eyes. Many have tried to latch on to my wife and I. She's a cat lover. I like cats, but because of allergies, I like to keep my distance and have kept our home cat free. We've feed a few over the years, but not regularly. I've never been tempted to let her bring one in.

Then, two weeks ago, a scrawny, "kitten" appeared on our porch without tags or a collar and we both felt that it looked desperate. We started to feed it, at first table scraps, now cat food from the store.

My wife thinks the cat might be older than we thought. She says she can feel its mameries, is convinced it is a female, and thinks it is even possible that it has had a litter. It can't be very old, though. It has put on a pound or two (although is still a very slight cat) since we started feeding it. It now spends all its time on our porch. We feed it the recommend amount once a day and nothing more. It is very affectionate -- no bitting or scratching -- and it wants to be pet.

OK, so, the options:

1) We continue feeding the cat but leave it outside and accept no other responsibility for it. (It's cold up here, and we just bought this cat, which we've named Tyra - it kind of looks like a girl Tigger - a cat "shelter," but I wonder how it would survive the winter.)

2) We take more responsibility -- take it the vet, get it vacinated, fixed, make sure it doesn't have real owners in the 'hood, etc. -- but continue to try to have it be an outdoor cat. (Is that possible in this climate? How much would the vet fees be? Would the other cats in this neighborhood just make it sick again?)

3) We make it a proper indoor cat. (As affectionate as this cat is, does a cat that has lived a stray's life really want to be confined indoors? And, again, how much for the vet?)

4) We call the local ASPCA, which is inundated with cats.

Advice would be wonderful. I love this cat, but just don't know what I am in for if I take it on.
post #2 of 10
nr 1 should not be an option.

It is actually the akillean heel of what you have done before.

To give food to homeless cat is nice, but it becomes great firstly when you do the next step - ie EITHER help to adopt it, OR help to fix it.

A fixed cat, if you give it some food and perhaps even some protection, will do quite OK. These cats we do talk about are survivors. The weakest have already gone on....

But a fertile cat getting food will only bring on more cats. Both kittens AND pals.

Edit: "The akillean heel" = the really weak point.

Good luck with the next step in yours lives!
post #3 of 10
Your letter ewokes much thoughts in me, so I will return later and write more.

Among other, some advices from allergic catowners what to do to copy with having allergy and wanting to have cats...

As now one reflection: You have apparently lots of cats in your area, and some of them more or less apparently homeless. Yes?

What you really need is a group of concerned inhabitants working with TNR of them, combined with some adoption of the apparently tame. (TNR_- trapp, neuter, return. Search on the forum if you need to know more)

There are perhaps more people there who would want to help?? Try cooperate! Its a lot easier if you are a group.
post #4 of 10
We found a little feral kitten (rather, he found us ) approx 3 1/2 mos ago. We named him Sunny and since he insisted on coming inside our house, we let him stay. He's a perfect inside kitten. It did take alot of money to get him healthy (close to $1100), but we are so very happy that we decided to take a chance on this little one. I had never had a cat myself (aside from the feral colony I care for).

If it were up to me, I'd bring the little one in It could, however be costly. At the very least I would take the little one to be spayed/neutered to ensure that the cycle stops. We have a little rule at our house - we will feed them, but in return, they are going to be spayed/neutered and vaccinated.

By the way, check with your local Humane Society. They have a TNR program for the ferals and it only cost us $40 to have the cats/kittens fixed, their vaccines and their ear cropped (so animal control knows that they are feral, fixed and vaccinated - they won't pick them up and kill them that way).

I don't live in a cold climate (quite the opposite), so I can not give you advice on that. Here, we have shelters for them and we put the heated mats (used for reptiles) in the bottom with a towel over them. This keeps them sufficiently warm. We run the fans for them during the day in the heat.
post #5 of 10
My 2 cents would be to let her in especially living in a cold climate. The vet shouldn't be too expensive probably has a URI and antibiotics are inexpensive. Weather you take her in or leave her out she will need to be spayed or you will have even more kittens producing even more kittens. If she doesn't like it inside, you can always let her back out. How about taking her to the vet and letting her in and in the mean time look for her owners. Maybe she's lost and someone is desperate to find her.
post #6 of 10
(look also at the thread Friendly feral about making semiferals into strickt indoor cats).

Here I will write down some advices for the cat-owner with allergy.
I will probably edit this several times.
Use this as a buffé, to choose your own combination.

Anyone is allowed to quote. Or rewrite into better english....

First some word of warning.
Being allergic and having cats IS some risk-taking. You must decide yourself.
If you have a pronounced respiration allergy, I wouldnt try. The danger IS real, and the suffocating attacks are nasty. I even know people who died from them. (not from cats as I know though).
If a respiratory allergic want to have cat - you must always have fresh appropriate medicine with you, and also in the medicine cabinet.

A good air cleaner with a good filtering function, preferably a "HEPA"-filter, is a excellent help for many.
Otherwise you should let fresh air come opening the windows.

An air-damper may also be useful.

Fight the dust!
Take the dust preferably with a damp cloth.
IF you use a vacuum cleaner, use one with good filters, preferably the "HEPA"-filter.
Carpets are dust-collectors...
Use cat-litters which dont dust much. Thus preferably some litter where the cat-sand is made of wood...

Learn the cat to swim, and let it swim every 10 day or every week. Or shower it with lukewarm water. It istnt necessary to use shampoo, thus the bath isnt hurting the cats skin depriving it of skin-fat.
This is very effective in many cases!
A light-version is to use a damp cloth and rub gently the fur. (this tip is an all-round tip, feks if a allergic friend is visiting you).

One room should be cat free. Preferably the bedrum. This is of course a real sacrifice, as most cats and humans love to sleep in the same bed...

After petting the cat, dont touch your face - wash hands.

Groom the cats regularly - i.e. preferably your non-allergic partner. It may be why persians and birmas are sometimes seen as allergy-friendly: they are simply groomed often! They are also usually bathed regularly.

Very many cat-allergic cat-owners learn with time to endure their own cats, although they are still allergic to other cats!

No smoking. No or very little alcohol or drugs.

Live a sound, healthy live: no smoking. Sleep well. Eat soundly, with lots of fruits and groceries... Drink much water.

Is there cat breeds safer then others?? Not really. It is mostly individual; both for cat and human. You must try out for yourself....

Fertile cats, and small kittens are more allergy-activating then others. An adult, spayed/neutered cat is thus the least dangerous.
post #7 of 10
Personally, I'd bring her in. Both of my cats are former strays and it took the younger one a grand total of maybe 5 minutes to adapt to being a housecat...that was how long it took for her to find the couch in the family room.

I know that around here people do have outdoor only or outdoor-indoor cats and we have pretty bad winters. As long as the cat has somewhere safe and warm to go, they should be alright...that being said,they still should be vaccinated and spayed/neutered and you'll want to be able to keep an eye on them regularly so no health problems get missed. Your vet should also check for a microchip - you never know when a cat may have just wandered a little too far from home.

As for allergies and cats - I have both. It is possible to work around the allergies: keep everything vacuumed (get a vacuum with a washable filter), make sure any cat bedding is washed very regularly, try to have wood and tile floors wherever possible and make very sure the cat's groomed regularly to avoid extra shedding.
post #8 of 10
Take the kitty in, you love her, she loves you. Allergies can be dealt with. My rescue lived outside 17 years, it took only 2 months for her to be indor only kitty. We could have left the door wide open, she said "Eh, been there done that, Im good."
post #9 of 10
I agree. You have little choice here - if you care fr this kitty and want her to survive, please find a place in your home (or someone else's) for her. It is too cold to leave her outside!
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
You folks are great. Thanks for the thoughtful replies, and sorry it took me awhile to weigh back in.

We have decided, at the very least, to take her to a vet, get her spayed and try to address any other issues she has. She continues to cling to our porch. We continue to feed her, to feel for her and to enjoy her. We want to do right by her and DON'T want her to have kittens.

StefanZ is absolutely right. We need to come together in this neighborhood -- on this and many other issues. Actually, it is starting to happen on a few fronts, which may provide an opening for addressing this issue in a compassionate way. Thanks for stating so clearly what should be done.
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